Formative Evaluation of the Pre-Removal Risk Assessment Program

1.0 Introduction

To assess the implementation and early results of the Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA)[note 1] program, and to examine consistency across regional PRRA offices, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) conducted a formative evaluation of the PRRA program. Specifically, the objective of the study was to evaluate the program in terms of relevance and early success in achieving its desired outcomes as identified in the evaluation framework, and to provide an examination of the PRRA process at each office. The research for this evaluation was conducted between January and June 2007.

1.1 Structure of the Report

The PRRA Evaluation Framework, completed in December 2006, identified a number of key themes to be explored and organized the evaluation questions accordingly. This report presents the evaluation findings in relation to: relevance, design and delivery (training and resources, consistency across regions), program integrity, program results, and cost-effectiveness.

The report is organized in four sections: Section 1 contains background information about the PRRA Program; Section 2 provides information on the evaluation methodology and limitations; Section 3 presents the evaluation findings by theme; and Section 4 presents overall conclusions.

1.2 Background

Part of Canada’s humanitarian tradition is to ensure that people are not returned to a country where they would be in danger or face the risk of persecution. The 2002 Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) provides that, with certain exceptions, persons in Canada may apply for protection if they are subject to a removal order that is in force. PRRA is the mechanism provided for the evaluation of such applications. Any person awaiting removal from Canada who alleges risk will not be removed prior to a risk assessment.

The policy basis for assessing risk prior to removal is found in Canada’s legal obligations with regard to the principle of non-refoulement. It holds that persons should not be removed from Canada to a country where they would be at risk of persecution, torture, risk to life or risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment. Canada is bound by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and international obligations to assess risk prior to the removal of an individual to a country of alleged persecution; PRRA stems from these obligations. The overall objectives of the program are: to ensure that protection is granted to those in need; to fulfill Canada’s international obligations; and to adhere to the principle of non-refoulement.

Key partners involved in the program include the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), which is responsible for triggering PRRAs and executing removal orders; and the Department of Justice (DOJ), which represents the Crown in any appeals of PRRA decisions, and provides legal advice as required.

1.2.1 The PRRA Process

The PRRA Program is a risk assessment mechanism that is triggered once a person has been ordered removed from Canada. Persons who are subject to an in-force removal order are eligible to apply for PRRA. There are two main categories of eligible applicants for PRRA:

  • failed refugee claimants (FRCs)PRRA is one part of the in-Canada refugee status determination system for those whose claim for refugee protection has been denied by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) and are applying for protection again based on a change in country conditions or circumstances; and
  • non-refugee claimants (NRCs) – those who request protection for the first time (based on alleged risk of return) after they have been ordered removed. NRCs have not made a claim to the IRB, but have contravened their conditions for remaining in Canada and have had a removal order issued against them[note 2].

The following persons are not eligible for PRRA:

  • those subject to extradition;
  • those ineligible for a hearing at the IRB because they came to Canada from a safe third country;
  • a repeat refugee protection claimant who is being removed from Canada less than six months after having previously left;
  • an individual already recognized as a protected person; or
  • an individual recognized as a Convention Refugee by a country to which they can return.

In cases where the applicant had a refugee hearing before the IRB, the PRRA is restricted to new evidence that arose after the rejection or evidence that was not reasonably available at the time of the rejection. This is also the case for those applicants who have received a negative PRRA decision but have not been removed from Canada. These applicants may apply for a subsequent PRRA if there is new evidence to present[note 3]. There is no limit to the number of PRRA applications that can be submitted by one individual.

Applicants who have had a negative PRRA decision, been removed from Canada, re-entered Canada, and are now, six months or more after removal, under a new removal order, can submit another PRRA application.

Non-refugee claimants may submit any documentary evidence in support of their risk assessment and are not limited by the new evidence provision of IRPA.

In the case of a failed refugee claimant, a PRRA application is not an appeal of a negative refugee decision or a review of the negative decision of the Board, but rather an assessment based on new facts or evidence which demonstrate that the person is now at risk of persecution, torture, risk to life or risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment should they be returned to their country of origin.

Applications must be made within 15 days from receipt of the PRRA notification (by CBSA) to be afforded a regulatory stay of removal. In most instances, the PRRA notification will be hand delivered to the applicant. However, if the PRRA notification is mailed, an additional seven days is provided for mailing. Applicants have a further 15 days, once the original 15 days to apply has lapsed, to provide written submissions. If no submissions are received, the PRRA officer can make a decision based on the risk identified in the application and the information on file. If an individual does not submit a PRRA application within 15 days after receipt of the notice, removal arrangements will resume. If the application is received late, the submissions must accompany any late application, and while a risk assessment will be completed, the applicant does not benefit from a stay of removal. If applicants do not wish to present an application for protection under PRRA, the applicant is provided with the opportunity to complete a declaration of no intention (or waiver). The completion of this declaration or waiver will indicate that no risk exists and removal arrangements should proceed.[note 4]

Persons who have submitted a PRRA may also have submitted an application for permanent residence in Canada on the basis of humanitarian or compassionate (H&C) grounds. The applicant must be able to demonstrate that he/she would face unusual and undeserved or disproportionate hardship if required to leave Canada to submit an application for permanent residence. Submitting an application for permanent residence on H&C grounds does not prevent or delay an individual from being removed from Canada if under a removal order.

An applicant may request a judicial review of a negative PRRA decision. Persons who receive a positive PRRA decision may apply for permanent residence in Canada. Figure 1 illustrates where the PRRA program is situated within the in-Canada refugee determination system.

Figure 1. In-Canada Refugee Status Determination System[note 4]

* Non-refugee claimants are also eligible for PRRA and the numbers above related specifically to PRRA include this group.

1.2.2 Delivery of the PRRA Program

Policy development and direction for the PRRA program is the responsibility of the Asylum Division of the Refugees Branch in CIC, while operational guidance and delivery of the program by the six PRRA offices[note 6] in the five CIC Regions is managed by the Operational Management and Coordination (OMC) Branch. The OMC Branch is responsible for coordination between the regions and liaising with PRRA coordinators.[note 7] Each of the five regions also has a manager who is responsible for PRRA. There are currently 76 PRRA officers across Canada (see Table 1 for the number of officers, by region).

Table 1. Number of PRRA Officers, by Region

Region Number of Officers
Atlantic 1
Quebec 27
Ontario (Mississauga) 26
Ontario (Niagara Falls) 8
Prairie and Northwest Territories 4
British Columbia and Yukon 10
Total 76

As part of their responsibilities, PRRA officers have the delegated authority to render decisions on H&C applications; it is the policy of CIC that PRRA officers assess these applications where risks, of the types enumerated in A96 and A97, have been identified as the reason for the exercise of humanitarian discretion (H&C w/risk cases). With the creation of this ‘single-decision maker’ model, H&C officers send cases where risk is a factor to the appropriate PRRA office. Previously, PRRA officers were not delegated to render decisions on H&C cases, providing only risk opinions to the H&C officers.

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1. Please see: www.cic.gc.ca/english/refugees/index.asp.

2. An individual can be deemed inadmissible to Canada for several reasons, including: non-compliance with the requirements of the Act; over-stays (i.e., temporary residents); and criminality (e.g., security issues, organized crime).

3. While failed refugee claimants are limited by IRPA, with respect to the submission of new evidence, those who submit a subsequent PRRA application are limited in the evidence they may submit by the legal principle of res judicata.

4. This general description of the PRRA application process is taken from the PRRA Policy and Procedure Manual.

5. This diagram represents all refugee claims made from June 28, 2002 – December 31, 2006, as of December 31, 2006 based on year of claim. Also please note that PRRA applications for 112(3) applicants only result in stays of removal and not processing for permanent residence.

6. Vancouver, Calgary, Mississauga, Niagara Falls, Montreal, and Halifax.

7. Coordinators: British Columbia Yukon (1), Prairies and Northwest Territories (1), Ontario (3), and Quebec (3). Note there is no PRRA coordinator position for the Atlantic region, and the Quebec Region also has a PRRA Program Advisor.

8. Four PRRA officers from the Mississauga office are located in the Toronto–St. Clair office.

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